Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, about stuff

Personal search – the future of search

with 3 comments

My one-time colleague Paul Dawson recently wrote an article called The Future of Search and in it he proposed some interesting ideas. Some choice quotes:

  • The growth of Chinese search giant Baidu is an indicator that fully localised and tailored content and offerings have great traction with local audiences
  • This trend is already driving an increase in the use of specialist searches … Look at how Farecast is now integrated into Bing for example, or how Flightstats is now integrated into Google.
  • Search does not necessarily have to begin with a keyword, but could start instead with a click or a touch. Take a look at Retrievr. Start drawing a picture in the box and see what happens. This is certainly search without the need for typing in keywords
  • search technology has advanced greatly in recent years. The recent launch of Microsoft Live Labs’ Pivot has given us a taste of what we can expect to see in the future

This really got me thinking about where search might go in the future and as my mind wandered I realised that as the amount of data that we collect about ourselves increases so too will the need and the desire to search it. The amount of electronic data that exists about each and every person is increasing and in the near future I fully expect that we are going to be able to store personal data such as:

  • A history of our location (in fact Google Latitude already offers this facility)
  • Recordings of all our phone conversations
  • Health information history (weight, blood pressure etc…)
  • Energy usage
  • Spending history
  • What films we watch, what radio stations we listen to
  • Voting history

Of course, most of this stuff is already stored somewhere but crucially we don’t have easy access to it. My utilities supplier knows how much electricity I’m using but if I want to know for myself I have to go and dig through my statements (assuming I have kept them). Similarly my doctor probably has ready access to all of my health records, my bank knows exactly what I have spent my money on, my cable supplier knows what I watch on TV and my mobile phone supplier probably knows exactly where I am and where I’ve been for the past few years. Strange then that none of this electronic information is available to me in a way that I can really make use of it; after all, its MY information. Its MY data. I created it.

That is set to change. As technologies mature and customers become more technically cognizant they will demand more access to the data that companies hold about them. The companies themselves will realise the benefit that they derive from giving users what they want and will embrace ways of providing it. As a result the amount of data that we store about ourselves is going to increase exponentially and the desire to search and derive value from that data is going to grow with it; we are about to enter the era of the “personal datastore” and we will want, and need, to search through it in order to make sense of it all.

Its interesting then that today when we think of search we think of search engines and yet in these personal datastores we’re referring to data that search engines can’t touch because WE own it and we (hopefully) choose to keep it private. Someone, I know not who, is going to lead in this space by making it easy for us to search our data and retrieve information that we have either forgotten or maybe didn’t even know in the first place. We will learn new things about ourselves and about our habits; we will share these findings with whomever we choose; we will compare what we discover with others; we will collaborate for mutual benefit and, most of all, we will educate ourselves as to how to live our lives better. Search will be the means to that end, it will enable us to make sense of the wealth of information that we will collect day in day out.

The future of search is personal, why would we be interested in anything else?


Written by Jamiet

February 11, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. This wood nice if bing search could do this provides answers to questions posed in plain language. "Just send Bing search a question in plain English, like you do when talking to a friend. Bing search figures out who might be able to answer, and asks on your behalf – Bing is the hub," it explains.


    February 13, 2010 at 3:28 am

  2. Personal data search will be important, but more importantly results won’t be as significant because there will simply be an answer, no digging required.


    May 3, 2010 at 7:59 pm

  3. […] Its an online companion to your phone and displays Zune, Xbox, OneNote notebooks, calendar items, photos and contacts; its also the site from which you access the fantastic Find My Phone feature (locate your phone if you lose it) – again, another great differentiator. In many ways http://windowsphone.live.com is the embodiment of the integration potential that I spoke of in  My thoughts on Windows Phone 7 and why I shall be getting one and its a great first stab at an online “portal” for all your interactions as a consumer with Microsoft. I’m expecting lots of enhancements to this site in the future and am hoping that those enhancements include a universal search feature that enables you to search all of your “stuff” (you may know of my belief that personal search is going to be huge in the future). […]

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